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NSWC Dahlgren Distinguished Community Service Award Winner Recounts Impact of Her High School Mentor

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications | Jan. 13, 2020

DAHLGREN, Va. – While plans are underway for the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Annual Honorary Awards Ceremony in 2020, the 2019 Distinguished Community Service Award recipient credits a high school mentor for her accolades.

Chelsey Lawson – NSWCDD engineer and human systems integration practitioner in the Integrated Combat Systems Department – was presented the Distinguished Community Service Award in March 2019 in honor of her contributions to the NSWCDD Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Program.

“Her desire to go beyond her assigned Human Systems Integration tasks to introduce and share the challenging world of STEM has had an immeasurable impact on the lives of over 300 elementary, middle school, and high school students in King George County,” cites the award.

Lawson traces the impact of STEM on her life to a Dahlgren engineer – her high school calculus tutor – by the name of Leonard Wilson who retired in 2019 after 36 years of government service. His view of engineering opened up a new perspective of the profession for Lawson while she was in high school.

“I had never heard about engineering, and he told me how I could combine my interests in medicine with engineering.  I went to college and earned a degree in biomedical engineering because his mentoring had a huge impact on my life,” said Lawson.  “I participated in STEM activities in our surrounding community to guide and inspire students on how to combine their interests with STEM education and careers – like Mr. Wilson did for me.”

Following in her mentor’s footsteps, Lawson has engaged young minds in the classroom through after school programs, events, and activities. For over six years, she has promoted the disciplines of engineering and science, as well as passed on her love of robotics to students. She volunteers at the Dahlgren School for two hours per week to share her engineering expertise.

Moreover, Lawson planned and coordinated the inaugural Dahlgren Museum STEM event for students in King George and surrounding counties and was a mentor and judge for the Dahlgren STEM Summer Academy and SeaPerch Regional Competition. She was featured in the winter 2018 edition of the Office of Naval Research publication, The Naval Edge, as a nominee for the Department of Defense STEM Advocate of the Quarter.

Lawson’s positive impact on the STEM program extends to her involvement with forums including the Society of Women Engineers and NSWCDD Inspiring the Next Generation Lean In Circle.

“She is a proud reflection on NSWCDD,” states the award citation.